Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried suggested Tuesday that she’d take Gov. Ron DeSantis to court if he doesn’t comply with laws on appointing state agency chiefs.
During a meeting of the governor and the Florida Cabinet, DeSantis indicated that he’ll bypass the three Cabinet officials when appointing a new top state environmental regulator. That means DeSantis alone would make the appointment, although subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
That didn’t sit well with Fried, who, like DeSantis, is a lawyer.
“We’ll be looking into potential legal actions if he’s violating the Constitution,” Fried told reporters during a break in the regular Cabinet meeting.
Sniping between DeSantis and Fried was a marked feature of the meeting Tuesday. DeSantis, a Republican, has not yet announced for reelection next year but Fried is among a number of Democrats seeking her party’s nomination to try to deny him a second term. (So is Congressman Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg.)
Fried is the only sitting Democratic Cabinet official to have won election statewide.
The clash reflected a unique feature of Florida government: That governors must share power with independently elected state attorneys general, chief financial officers, and commissioners of Agriculture and Consumer Services who form the Cabinet.
That hasn’t been a problem for years, as Republicans controlled all three seats plus the governorship and generally have gotten along. Even since Fried’s election in 2018, a Republican majority on the panel has voted down her attempts to assert herself on policy.
That might not be possible this time because of that state law governing appointment of agency secretaries. Noah Valenstein stepped down as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, effective on June 4 and an interim secretary is running the agency pending a permanent replacement.
Fried asked the governor when he planned to do that.
“We need to make sure that somebody’s appointed and accountable to all of us in the Cabinet,” Fried said.
“It’s an executive appointment and so that’s our prerogative, and we’ll do it when we want to, and we’ll let folks know about it,” DeSantis replied.
DeSantis argued that the Florida Constitution envisions appointment either by the governor and Cabinet or confirmation of a gubernatorial appointee by the state Senate.
“The statute says both, but there’s an argument that it can flip and that it would be one or the other. My sense would be the Legislature would retain their authority rather than give the Cabinet authority. So, that would be a live issue, potentially, if we end up with a conflict,” the governor said.
Here’s what Article IV Section 6 (a) of the Constitution says: “When provided by law, confirmation by the Senate or the approval of three members of the Cabinet shall be required for appointment to or removal from any designated statutory office.”
The Legislature did pass a law controlling appointments to the DEP. It is Florida Statutes Section 20.255 (1) and it says:
“The head of the Department of Environmental Protection shall be a secretary, who shall be appointed by the governor, with the concurrence of three members of the Cabinet. The secretary shall be confirmed by the Florida Senate. The secretary shall serve at the pleasure of the governor.”
Speaking to reporters, Fried hazarded a guess at the governor’s motivation: “He doesn’t want to have to bring a DEP secretary that he’s going to have to deal with me in order for it to be approved,” she said.
“And there’s only three members of the Cabinet,” Fried added.
“The Department of Environmental protection is one of the most essential elements here in state government. It protects our wetlands, our waterways, our natural resources. This is fundamental to who we are as Floridians,” she said.
The Phoenix sought comment from representatives of EarthJustice, the Florida Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, and the Everglades Foundation. The organizations either declined to comment or didn’t respond.
A second clash Tuesday involved ratification of a rule arising from Florida’s new “anti-riot” law, which allows county sheriffs to appeal to the state Administration Commission — i.e. the governor and Cabinet — if county commissioners cut their budgets. The rule sets out the process by which that would happen.
Fried cast the lone no vote.
“This continues a disturbing pattern in Tallahassee — bullying local governments into submission,” she said.
“We all support our law enforcement officers in the difficult job that they have to do. But this is straight-up hypocritical interference, yet again, with cities and counties managing their budgets and doing their jobs,” she said.
Fried reminded DeSantis of comments he made in 2018: “I reject the idea that government bureaucrats in a faraway capital could plan our lives better than we could plan them ourselves.”
“Now the so-called party of small government is yet again telling government closest to the people what they cannot do with their money,” she said. “Who is really the big-government bureaucrat in the far-away capital?”
DeSantis said he doesn’t remember the context for that remark and defended the rule.
“What the rule does, it says very clearly to the people of Florida, if your municipal government tries to defund law enforcement, we’ve got your back. We are going to protect you. We are not going to allow some rogue local government to do insane things like defunding the police,” he said.
However, the data don’t support a causal link between police spending and crime rates, according to a May PolitiFact analysis. For one thing, some crime has spiked both in cities that reduced and increased police spending.
Speaking to reporters on another topic, Fried accused DeSantis of “stepping on the backs of Floridians to get to the presidency.”
Should the governor win reelection next year, he will immediately begin campaigning for president, she predicted.
“He’ll be declaring for president, running around the country trying to get the nomination, and then, were he to be successful, he’d be leaving half-way through his four-year term. So, not a single day would he be serving as governor [during] his second term,” Fried said.
DeSantis told reporters that, “I have not formally announced. I think it’s a pretty good bet we’re going to do that. Probably everywhere I go I get people that have all these ideas, and people can say what they want, but, you know, we’ve got a lot to do here. So that’s the focus that I have.”
He indicated Lt. Gov. Janette Nuñez would remain on the ticket.
“When we get to that point, I would anticipate Jeanette to be a part of that, as well,” DeSantis said.
–Michael Moline, Florida Phoenix
His Agenda is like Swiss Cheese. Hes a predictable follower.
David Schaefer says
DeathSantis is useless. He always has his nose where it doesn’t belong more like Trump every day he must be voted out.
Dennis C Rathsam says
All of Florida’s democrates, will do & say anything to discredit Mr De Santis. Its sad but the proof is in the pudding. He has done more for Fl, than most governers have done. His vision for a greater Fl is taking affect. Nikki Nobody, Flip Flop, Charlie dont have the democrates at heart. They simply want power, & want to reverse all of our governers hard work. Just look at the mess Joe Biden has created, reversing Trumps plan. America, is loosing, our citizens cant afford Bidens crap gas is up 98 cents in 5 months, Chuck steaks are 7.oo dollars a pound…Food costs have tripled….2×4’s are 10.oo bucks a piece…and theres no end in site. Simply put Joe Biden screwed all of us middle class! And he’s just getting started. Russia gets the pipeline, and ours gets closed down. So much 4 America first!
Its called Printing money by the Fed over 25 years, coming out of a Pandemic Supply v Demand, Too much $$ chasing too few Goods and Services thats Inflation. The Fed has been trying to push Inflation to 2,2.5% for at least a Decade. Its Transitory, We hope, so here We are and No Administration is really at fault its been the Policy of Fed Governors. The Pipline was closed due to CyberAttack. That rests on Colonials shoulders. Your last sentence is ambiguous but correct.
the dude says
Which of President Biden’s policies, specifically, is responsible for the rise in gas prices? Lumber prices? Chuck steak prices?
Ray W. says
Fact-checking Dennis C Rathsam provides some following information.
Lowe’s offers “Framer Series” Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x8’s for $4.18.
Sam’s has chuck steaks for $5.08 per lb. Wal-Mart sells Angus chuck steaks for $5.97 per pound. Publix has ground chuck for $3.99 per pound. Winn-Dixie sells shoulder roasts for $4.99 per pound. SaveALot has Rib-eye steaks on sale for $6.49 per pound. So many choices. I strongly suspect that food prices have not tripled. I can still buy milk at a variety of stores for under $3 per gallon. Other staples, such as bananas, bread, pasta, tomatoes, potatoes, orange juice, etc., remain the same as they were a year ago.
We will have to go back to the basics on the gasoline price issue. Remember when the Texas Republican government deregulation fiasco shut off about 25% of the U.S. refinery capacity to produce gasoline and prices rose? A number of commenters erroneously blamed Biden for the Republican state governmental failure! Well, gasoline prices rose due to simple supply and demand. OPEC had been cutting crude oil production in an effort to leverage higher prices for crude oil. According to an article on OilPrice.com, as of April 11, 2021, OPEC was holding back 7 million barrels per day of crude oil production, with Saudi Arabia voluntarily cutting back another 1 million barrels per day. The article’s author offered the analysis that Saudi Arabia needs oil prices at $76.10 per barrel to satisfy its basic economic needs, but oil was just under $60 per barrel. As usual, the misinformed and misguided, including Dennis C Rathsam, see only the United States, but there is a great big world out there. The oil producing nations belonging to OPEC benefit from higher crude oil prices, so they are acting out of their own perceived self-interest by cutting production. Blaming Biden for OPEC’s economic decisions seems misguided to me, but when Dennis C Rathsam voluntarily makes himself uneducable, such a gaffe’ seems inevitable.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a natural gas pipeline. The northern leg of the XL pipeline was to carry tar sands crude petroleum from Canada to Steele City, Oklahoma, where it was to hook up to the southern leg of the XL pipeline. If the northern leg were to be built, the Canadian crude oil would displace the North Dakota crude oil that currently fills the southern leg. American crude oil producers would lose money, because they would have to pay rail freight rates to get their crude oil all the way to Houston, instead of paying rail freight rates to Oklahoma. Pipeline rates are approximately 1/3 of rail freight rates, so American crude oil would go up in price if the northern leg of the XL pipeline was allowed to be built.
In conclusion, Dennis C Rathsam is incorrect on every point he raises. If you put garbage into a formula, you get garbage out. This whole post qualifies as garbage. GIGO in old-time computer slang.